One of the traditions of ITMO University’s Faculty of Physics and Engineering is periodic seminars where the Faculty’s staff and their international colleagues can exchange experience and the latest research results. This tradition was established over 10 years ago, when the faculty was just starting to be formed on the basis of the Metamaterials Laboratory.
The modern format of these seminars caught on by 2018. The occasional meetups gave way to a system of regular weekly events revolving around the Faculty’s three main areas of work.
“Today, we host microwave, theoretical and optical seminars,” says Anton Samusev, a staff member at the Faculty of Physics and Engineering. “The presentations usually last for about an hour, after which you can ask questions. The specifics are reflected in the seminars’ names: microwave seminars focus on the radio frequency range, the development and application of various high-frequency devices, and also magnetic resonance imaging. Theoretical seminars voice ideas that still require some time to be brought to life. Optical seminars cover a wide range of phenomena related to optics, nano-optics, nonlinear optics, and ultrafast processes. It’s important that these are experimental seminars, where the participants present specific overviews or talk about a project’s concrete results.”
The seminars often feature eminent scientists visiting St. Petersburg, as well as PhD students who are finishing work on their PhD theses or some of the latter’s fragments. What’s more, unlike many open lectures and workshops which mostly cover general and well-known concepts, the seminars always discuss cutting-edge science that researchers are working on at this very moment.
“This allows us to follow the latest achievements of our colleagues, and also give our staff, PhD and Master’s students the chance to talk about their work,” explains Anton Samusev. “To those who are about to graduate, this is also an opportunity to receive some feedback, so that they would be pointed towards their work’s potential weak points and get tested by complex questions before their results are published. This, by the way, is a good motivation for international students and researchers to participate in our meetings.”
Seminars during quarantine
In conditions of quarantine, it was decided not to stop the meetings but rather to move them online. First, the presentations were recorded and published on the Faculty’s YouTube channel, then the meetings were fully transferred to Zoom. This allowed the organizers to invite even more international colleagues. While self-isolating, the participants had the opportunity to listen to scientists from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and France. With the authors’ consent, the majority of the seminars were recorded and published online, together with Q&As and following discussions.
“The seminars featured Aleksei Kimel, a professor at Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands), who talked about ultrafast magneto-optics, including optical memory,” explains Anton Samusev. “The guests also included Maxim Shcherbakov, who now works in New York. His report was dedicated to ultrafast nonlinear nano-optics. Also delivering a presentation was Konstantin Simovski, a professor at Aalto University and ITMO University, who talked the participants through how to model optical quantum effects in the microwave range.”
Not only did the new format allow for a more diverse group of presenters, it also led to a significant increase in the audience. While onsite seminars usually gather around 15-20 people, the online ones bring together 50-60 physicists from all over the world. This is facilitated by the fact that the majority of seminars are held in English. Their recordings gather hundreds of views, which is a significant audience for the field of theoretical and experimental physics. It’s therefore not surprising that after the pandemic restrictions are lifted and students and staff return to work onsite, the online broadcasts and recordings of the meetings will still carry on.
In particular, there is a series of seminars planned to take place throughout June. Two of them will revolve around nanotechnologies and, as noted by Anton Samusev, will prove interesting to the wider public.
These include a lecture by Prof. Stefan Maier, the Chair in Hybrid Nanosystems at the Faculty of Physics of LMU Munich and author of a well-known textbook on plasmonics. Another lecture will be delivered by Dr. Andrea Blanco-Redondo, the Head of the Silicon Photonics department at Nokia Bell Labs in the US.
How to participate in the online seminars
The descriptions of previous seminars with the links to their recordings are available on the website of the Faculty of Physics and Engineering. There, you can also sign up for whichever future seminar you find interesting. To not miss any updates, you can sign up for the newsletter by the seminars’ organizers.
The majority of the seminars are available to anyone interested.
“Some international participants give presentations on yet unpublished material, access to which may be restricted, but this is more of an exception,” shares Anton Samusev. “We try to convince the speakers to hold a public, broadcasted presentation, and most of the time they agree.”
According to the organizers, the seminars can be difficult to understand if you don’t have a background in that particular field. Nonetheless, many presentations may be interesting not only to students, PhD researchers and the Faculty’s staff but also to specialists in adjacent fields who would like to learn more about modern research on a particular topic.
“We encourage all university colleagues to participate, not only as listeners but also as speakers,” explains Anton Samusev, “The seminars cater for various audiences, for those keen on learning more about physics and engineering, there are overview seminars in which specific topics are put into context, as well as lectures presenting specific results, for those from that particular field.”